When you’re a learning entrepreneur, especially in a certain niche, it’s likely that you’ll occasionally be asked to create courses on demand. That can be very good business, especially if your clients are large companies. Working with them can increase your visibility and add valuable items to your portfolio.
The key to successful delivery and positive feedback is making sure that you know what your customers need. The initial request may be very different and quite off the mark to what is really necessary, learning-wise, in that organization.
Explain your method
Telling a potential client that they may be wrong about what they truly need is not a good way to start a working relationship. Nothing holds them from turning to one of your competitors if they feel that you don’t respect their input. That’s why it’s essential to reassure them from the start that you’ll deliver what their organization needs and you’ll meet your deadlines.
However, it’s important to sell them the idea that the more thoroughly you prepare courses, the more successful they will be. Learning needs assessments are powerful tools that validate their initial request.
Get to know the organization
Custom learning design is all about making sure the program works for them. You’ll need to know how that business works, its core values and mission statement, and details about the organizational culture.
Apart from these general things, you’ll also have to get to know their person of contact. It’s essential to build a relationship founded on trust and show that you’re interested in delivering a good product rather than just cashing some money.
If you gain their trust, it’ll be a lot easier to stir them in a different direction if you find that their request is not truly what they need.
Find the reasons for the request
The person who approached you with the custom training request may or may not have told you why they think certain courses are necessary. If they didn’t, the first answer will most probably be a superficial one like “we feel that it’s an important aspect of our business at present.”
While that may sound good to whoever is signing off the money for your project, you’ll need to get to the root of the problem. Depending on the type of courses you are asked to create, there might be a knowledge gap, a performance gap, or motivation issues that can’t really be fixed with e-learning.
Agree on the objectives
Any learning intervention is meant to change something for the better – usually performance or behavior. If you want to prove that your learning materials work, you’ll need to agree on the learning objectives and how they will be measured.
Do not fall into the trap of loose formulations such as “better communication” or “improved team spirit.” You’ll need specifics that can be measured and attainable objectives.
It’s better to push for accountability on both parts and be honest about what you can achieve than move forward with it only to end up with a dissatisfied client and bad reviews.
Communicate and adjust the design and delivery
Don’t fall off the radar once the learning needs assessment is completed. While constantly asking for feedback and validation doesn’t exactly scream “professional,” neither does losing contact with people.
Learning design is a process, and it’s normal for questions to arise. Keeping your client in the loop is the best way to make sure that once the course is finished, everyone gets what they expect, and it doesn’t need too much validation or tweaking.
Getting new clients and expanding your e-learning business is always exciting. However, your reputation is what will move you forward. It’s crucial to do an excellent job with every client, even if that means investing more time in the preparation phase and focusing on constant communication during design and delivery.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and INDIE. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.